Loree Lough

With nearly three million books sold, best-selling author Loree Lough’s titles have earned 4- and 5-star reviews and dozens of awards. Reviewers and readers alike call her “a gifted writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives.” Her 9/11 novel From Ashes to Honor (#1 in First Responders series, Abingdon) hits bookshelves to coordinate with the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. Loree lives near Baltimore and loves spending time at her teeny tiny cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she loves to show off her talent for correctly identifying critter tracks. Visit Loree at http://wwwloreelough.com.

Be Careful of What You Ask For - Part I

Every time I lead a workshop or host a talk with new or unpublished writers, I hear the same questions. Without exception, someone will admit that they’d always wanted to ask this or that question, but fear of sounding uninformed kept them from raising their hands.

In case one of you has a fear of hand raising, here are a few of those questions answered from my point of view.

I have no idea where to begin, Loree! How do I know if I’m conducting myself like a professional writer? (Deena C., Albany, NY)

Well, Deena, the first thing you need to determine is do you aspire to be a full-time writer, or will you be satisfied with the term hobbiest? It’s an important question, and the answer is just as important. According to my accountant, the IRS says if you earn less than $1,000 a year for three or more years, you’re a hobbiest. Sweethearts that they are, they allow you to claim deductions for stuff like postage, toner, office equipment, paper, and whatnot without keeping receipts to prove what you spent. But I recommend keeping track, anyway, so that when you are published, record keeping will already be a good habit. That means keeping careful records and being able to put your hands on them in case of an audit. In general, IRS wants to see five to seven years’ worth, but I keep ten.

What documents do I need to save, exactly? (Allen G., Annapolis, MD)

Computer programs can help us keep track of what we spend, and we need to remember to print out the spreadsheets and file them in safe places. What if your agent or editor, accountant or (God forbid!) the IRS demands an audit but your computer has been compromised? I sleep better knowing I have paper copies—proof of every dollar I’ve spent—to bring to the meeting.

What sorts of expenses are deductible? (Jon T., San Francisco, CA)

How-to books, a good dictionary, thesaurus, style manual, Writer’s Market, a baby name book . . . in short, anything that’s a writing aid or serves as bona fide research is deductible. Gone are the days (sadly) when golf outings, weekend retreats, and lunch or dinner meetings are wholly deductible. You’ll need to check with the tax laws in your area to find out what percentage of meals, travel, accommodations, etc., are deductible. And while we’re on that subject, don’t try to subtract the entire cost of that glittery gown you wore to the Christy Awards dinner or the tux you bought to accept an award at the ACFW banquet.

A moment on this subject of “other stuff,” since the books you’ll want to have on hand will vary, depending on your personal style and what you’re writing. You can save a lot of money by compiling a wish list of books recommended by writer pals. Take your list to the library, and if you can borrow them, by all means do so. Just keep in mind that some of those tomes have hidden mini explosive devices in the bindings that detonate when you try to leave the building with them in your backpack. But I digress.

If you can’t check the books out, make use of the library’s photocopy machine and copy the pages most aligned with your needs. And if you find yourself going back to the library time and again to revisit the same books, well, you might want to own those. It can get pricy, though, so when family and friends ask what to get for your birthday, you can say, “B&N gift card!”

Add to your “buy me” list:

Industry publications (like Writer’s Digest and Fiction Writer magazines)
Writing implements
Office machines (fax, phone, computer, copier, printer, answering machine, and the stuff that makes ’em function, like paper and toner)
Separate phone line
Internet access

Help with travel expenses (mileage, parking, tolls, airfare, hotel, meals, etc.)
Memberships in writers’ organizations
Conference, workshop, seminar fees
P.O. box
Bank fees (if you keep separate savings/checking accounts from the household stuff)

And you know what? That’s a list of things that are deductible! (Check with your accountant to make sure how much of it is deductible in your state.)

Additionally, you can claim depreciations for wear and tear on all of those things, as well as a percentage of the total square footage of your house and the space you call your office. But I can’t stress it enough: Talk with a reputable accountant and/or tax attorney to ensure you’re not adding nondeductible items to the list—or leaving things off.

There are so many ways to earn money as a writer that I’m just plain confused! (Sandra H., Milwaukee, WI)

You aren’t alone! Novel and nonfiction writers, short story writers, screenwriters, playwrights, and journalists are but a few ways you can trade cash for your written words. You can write corporate brochures and newsletters, and contribute to multi-authored projects. Then once you’ve racked up some credentials (don’t wig out; trust me, it takes very few to do what I’m about to suggest), you can write up a proposal and teach at the local community college. So your job, dear Sandra, is to figure out what you do best, and do it until editors and agents recognize the paper trail you’re leaving in your wake.

Yikes. It’s so much to remember! How do you keep track of everything? (Claudia F., Arlington, VA)

I keep a file for every article, short story, novella and book I’ve written. Some projects fit into a manila folder, others require an accordion folder.

In them, I store contact names and phone numbers of the publisher, editor, people I’ve interviewed (and the notes from those interviews), the contract, and all correspondence between my agent/editors/publishers and me. I also save all my research notes (never know when you might want to revisit the info for a future project!), copies of receipts (mileage and tolls that might have been necessary for the research), and photocopies of the checks I’ve received in payment for each project.

Yep. That means I have to store some of this stuff in two separate places. Oh, now, don’t groan. It’ll be second nature before you know it.


An Accidental Family